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Joshua Holko

Joshua Holko: Arctic Photographer of the Year 2015

The purpose of the Global Arctic Awards - 2015 contest is to show the magnificence of the diverse North and Arctic world through the photo art. The contestants works will represent the beautiful variety of the North nature and wildlife, depict the peculiarities of the “icy” world of the Arctic, and narrate unforgettable photo stories about the culture, life and centuries-old customs of the North minorities . Through the prism of photographic lenses the coldest, deeply frozen Earth regions, covered with ice and snow, will appear in a new perspective.

Moab Paper is proud to sponsor Joshua Holko and love seeing his work printed on Somerset Museum Rag and Juniper Baryta Rag.

"This morning I awoke to the very exciting news that I have won the grand prize of the 2015 Global Arctic Photographer of the Year award. Winning the Global Arctic Photographer of the Year award is a huge thrill and honour for me; the incredibly high standard of photographic work being produced in Europe is very intimidating and I am deeply humbled to have had my work chosen from a pool of such amazing photographs and amazing photographers. In total I took out five medals across the different categories including Gold, Silver and the FLAP Special award in two categories as well as the overall Grand Prize of 2015 Global Arctic Photographer of the Year. As an added bonus, I am told that I am the first photographer outside of Norway to win this award."

Joshua Holko

The Arctic: Close up and personal

Kingdom of the Ice Bear from Joshua Holko on Vimeo.

Ever wonder what an expedition to the High Arctic would be like? This short film by Joshua Holko gives you a unique insight into what it's like to participate on a dedicated photography expedition with a small group of passionate photographers. It's also intended to highlight the growing threat to Polar Bears and raise awareness for their rapidly diminishing numbers.

2015 Australian Professional Photography Awards

Congratulations to Joshua Holko who just wrapped up with 2014 Australian Professional Photography Awards with four entries on Somerset Museum Rag and all scored coveted Silver with Distinction Awards.

Widely regarded by many as the toughest photographic competition in the world today, APPA remains one of the few world wide competitions where the finished ‘print’ is judged (in the vast majority of categories) by a panel of professional photographers who are each considered experts in their chosen specialities. 

Joshua Holko chose to enter the Science, Wildlife and Wild Place category because this category has very rigid rules on image manipulation that are consistent with his own ethics for minimalist post production techniques.

Not only did Joshua Holko enter the APPA awards, but he also participated as a judge for the first time. You can watch the judging of his photographs here

Congratulations to Karen Dobia as well who took this ‘homage to Polar explorers’ photograph of me earlier this year. The photograph scored a highly coveted Gold Award in the Illustrative category. We are proud to say this was also printed on Somerset Museum Rag. 

 

Epson Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year 2015

The 2015 Epson Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year competition has been running in Melbourne at 1140 studios. Moab Master, Joshua Holko, won multiple categories, the highest scoring print and the overall title of 2014 Epson Victorian Professional Photographer of the Year last year. It is a competition Joshua thoroughly enjoys from the capture to print. 

Congratulations to Joshua Holko for scoring Silver in four landscape photographs and three of his Science, Wildlife and Wild Places photographs in the 2015 AIPP Awards.

All of the prints were printed on Holko's all-time favorite stock for fine art photography prints, Moab Somerset Museum Rag

Arctic Fox Snow Storm – 89 Silver with Distinction Award Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Category

Dune on Fire – 86 Silver with Distinction Award Landscape Category

The AIPP National and State awards are two of the few remaining competitions to actually judge the finished print and they do so using a panel of judges all deemed experts in their respective genres and accredited as Masters of Photography through their years of success in this arena. 

Joshua Holko will now be headed to the South Island of New Zealand for his 2015 Masterclass Workshop.

Travel Photographer of the Year- Wild and Vibrant

Congratulations to Moab Master, Joshua Holko, for winning the 2014 Travel Photographer of the Year award in the Wild and Vibrant category after a two month journey in South Georgia Island, Patagonia and Antartica. Joshua Holko used Somerset Museum Rag for his prints. 

"Travel photographer of the Year is one of the few remaining competitions that still judge the printed image and it is a massive thrill and honour to have won the Single Shot Wild and Vibrant Category with one of my Polar Bear photographs from Svalbard in the Arctic. 

The winning photograph has subsequently been featured by the UK Daily MailNational Geographic Itlay, The GuardianThe UK Telegraph, the German news website Spiegel Online and more. Winning Travel Photographer of the Year in the Wild and Vibrant Category has topped off for me what has been a truly incredible year in the competition arena. The standards in these competitions are incredibly high and it an immense honour to win the category."

-Joshua Holko

 

Science, Environment, Nature Photographer of the Year

Congratulations to our Moab Master, Joshua Holko, on winning the 2014 AIPP Canon Professional Science, Environment and Nature Photographer of the Year! At state level Holko's images scored 2 Gold Awards and 2 Gold with Distinctions. He was ecstatic to receive a Silver Award, a Silver with Distinction and two Gold Awards for his four entries this year at APPA. All four entries were printed on his favourite fine art paper - Moab Somerset Museum Rag

Watch the judging of the three highest scoring prints here!

 

Somerset Museum Rag Goes Big!

This Epic Sense of Scale Antarctica by Joshua Holko scored a Gold with Distinction award and was selected to be included in the prestigious Nillumbik Prize. During his recent Antarctica expedition, Joshua Holko was fortunate enough to come across an iceberg of truly monumental size near Antarctic Sound. The winning photograph at the Victorian Epson Professional Photography Awards measures 24″ x 100″ inches and was printed  on Moab Somerset Museum Rag paper. It will go on display next week from June the 5th at Montsalvat Art Gallery in Eltham.

 

The Ultimate Photographic Expedition To Antarctica

Join Moab Master photographer Joshua Holko and pro wildlife and nature Photographer Daniel Bergmann on the Ultimate photographic expedition to Antarctica.  This expedition is strictly limited to 50 participants plus leaders for this trip of a life time.

At this time, there is only one triple share male space remaining, one twin-share and one-twin private place available before the trip is sold out. For additional information including a full itinerary and cost please contact Joshua Holko at 0408 408 818 or by email info@jholko.com.

Click here for a recent article on Joshua's workshops

The French Alps

A final post from France by Joshua Holko:

"One of the real highlights of my trip through France was the opportunity to visit the alpine town of Chamonix. Widely regarded as the mountaineering Mecca of France, Chamonix is a magnet and playground for mountaineers and alpinists from around the world. With its high altitude mountains, precipitous and jagged peaks, and high quality granite spires it is easy to see why.

The town itself is filled with all manner of outdoor clothing, mountaineering and adventure shops. The only other place I can recall seeing such a collection of stores and brands in such a small a geographical area was in Ushuaia at the bottom of South America from where the majority of Antarctica expeditions depart. In short, if you can’t find it in Chamonix you probably don’t need it (although the prices might leave you reeling).

With a day free in Chamonix before heading for Venice, I jumped at the opportunity to take the two cable cars up to the Aiguille Du Midi at just over 12,600 feet for some mountaineering photography.

With no real mountains to speak of in Australia, I am not used to high altitude climbing and suffered from constant lack of breath, light-headedness and a severe headache after twelve hours at nearly 4000 metres. Whilst my Austrian companion seemed unaffected by the altitude I was forced to stop every few minutes to try and catch my breath as we made our way up the ridgeline. It was worth the pain, however, as the opportunity to photograph climbers returning from Mont Blanc along a very exposed ridge provided breathtaking views and photographic possibilities. We were taking a little bit of a chance with this climb as it was very windy and the pressure was dropping, with the possibility of a forecast storm. Spindrift was whipping off the peaks and, with eleven people loosing their lives on Mont Blanc in the last few weeks, I was less than thrilled at the thought of getting caught in an exposed position.  I was, however, very keen to get some photographs, because the wind was whipping clouds and fog across the mountain at a rapid rate which was creating a lovely play of light. In the end, I climbed only a relatively short distance up the ridge as the conditions were just too dangerous for my experience at that altitude.

This was the first opportunity I had to use the Canon 1DX at high altitude in cold weather and it did not disappoint. At -15 degrees Celsius the Canon 1DX performed flawlessly and I was able to squeeze out nearly 600 frames without any effort, finding no need to warm the battery or swap it for another from a warm pocket. This is remarkable performance in such a hostile environment and is consistent with my experience with the 1DS MK3 and 1D MKIV cameras in Antarctica.

I hope to return to Chamonix in the future and spend more time in the stunningly beautiful French Alps. Along with the Andes mountain range in South America, they rate as some of the most rugged and beautiful mountains I have seen.

For now, I have arrived in Iceland and am looking forward to heading out into the wilds tomorrow morning."

The Notre Dame Cathedrals

Joshua Holko files another post from France

Paris is, of course, well known for its magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the sheer scale and majesty of which is biblically awe-inspiring. Photographing the Notre Dame, however, is a challenge. By break of day the building is surrounded by thousands of tourists streaming through its grand doors and climbing its towers, and the numbers do not waiver until nightfall. There is simply no opportunity to capture the building free from visitors. Because I wanted to do more than merely walk away with the usual tourist postcard photograph, I was left searching for alternatives.

In an effort to make a better photograph I decided I would get up before sunrise and try a long exposure from one of the bridges across the river Seine in the hope of capturing the Cathedral in a more peaceful and serene environment.  This viewpoint is one I had not seen before and one in which I could utilize the river to place the Cathedral in context. Although the Cathedral is partially obscured behind the trees I like the angle for the added mystery. I used a ten stop ND filter to obtain a 4 minute exposure to soften the sky and create a sense of movement in the clouds and water.

As much as I enjoyed indulging myself in Parisian café culture it now feels good to be out in the countryside and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This has been my first visit to France and it has been as picturesque and scenic as I was led to believe. With its manicured fields and gardens the French countryside is beautiful and its many small villages quaint and adorable.

Over the last few days I have spent some time in the Champagne region (where healthy portions of fine Champagne were sampled and keenly devoured), Reims and the small town of Ambois located in the Loire valley where I have visited a number of spectacularly opulent chateaus located nearby.

I was not aware that there is in fact a second Notre Dame cathedral located in Reims and was fortunate to stumble across it whilst driving though the town. The choice of how to photograph this gothic Cathedral struck me as I stood below its imposing form and leering gargoyles. I wanted to make this Cathedral appear to be both rooted to the earth and soaring toward the heavens in order to do justice to its gothic architecture and imposing stature. I accomplished this using Canon’s 17mm wide angle lens and pointing the camera up toward the towers to create an exaggerated perspective. This photograph was handheld since the use of tripods, even on the external grounds, is strongly discouraged. The key to making this work was a combination of the wide angle lens, camera angle and symmetry to create the desired effect. I was also fortunate to have some dramatic clouds and lighting which add to the atmosphere and enhance the Cathedral’s foreboding presence.

This trip has been a wonderful opportunity to shoot with the new 1DX camera which is continuing to surpass my expectations. It has the best metering and autofocus of any camera I have used. Tomorrow I will be heading for Dijon where I look forward to more photography with this remarkable new camera and of course some more “boudoir the grape.”

Canon 1DX - Making the impossible possible

A guest blog post from Joshua Holko reporting on location from Paris.

"Paris has been the first opportunity I have had to shoot with Canon’s new 1DX multi-media powerhouse camera. I had only limited opportunity to test the camera before I departed for Europe because the camera arrived only a couple of days before my flight departed. With all the delays since its announcement in September last year I was having serious doubts whether Canon were going to deliver. I managed some initial tests to ensure there was no immediate problem with the camera and these proved very promising, with excellent results.

 After two days in Paris and around 500 frames I can now report that the Canon 1DX has exceeded my expectations for low light and autofocus performance in every respect. One of the real highlights in Paris for anyone interested in history and architecture is its incredibly impressive cathedrals and churches. The sheer scale, grandeur, and majesty of Notre Dame, and others, make them wonderfully impressive subjects for photography. They can be hard to capture in their entirety as there is a fine balance between placing the structure in context and the creation of a mere postcard. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the challenge and I could happily spend many days prowling the streets and cobblestone alleys for new and different angles.

As impressive as the Cathedrals are externally, they are equally awe-inspiring on the inside. Unfortunately, all of them are extremely dark inside and tripod photography is forbidden (as is the use of flash – although, this last ‘law’ seems very poorly enforced) necessitating the use of high ISO photography to ensure sufficient shutter speeds and depth of field. It is not uncommon to have to push the ISO as high as 10,000 or even 25,600 in some cases to obtain 1/40th of a second at F4 in the darker areas.

This photograph was taken inside the Eglise Saint Eustache cathedral with the Canon 1DX and 17mm F4L TSE, handheld at ISO 6,400, 1/60th of a second, F 4.5. I want to emphasize that it was extremely dark inside the cathedral and that the light streaming through the stain glass windows was extremely hot. The dynamic range far exceeds the capabilities of any camera to record; yet the 1DX has managed to produce an excellent exposure without intervention from me. This photograph simply would not have been possible with such low noise with any previous camera I have owned or tested. The image has had only minimal post processing and noise reduction in Adobe Lightroom 4.1. There is virtually no appreciable noise of consequence in the RAW file, at least nothing that is not easily corrected with a small amount of noise reduction (a modest setting of 25 in Lightroom was used in this example to reduce the luminance noise grain – no color noise reduction was required). The results are simply astonishing and I am very much looking forward to the new opportunities created by the amazing capabilities of the 1DX. Although in this example I utilized the 17mm F4L TSE which is a manual focus lens I also shot several frames with the 24mm f1.4L MKII and 35mm F1.4L lenses, and in all cases the 1DX was able to immediately nail focus in near total darkness, center of frame. The era of shooting in the dark has truly arrived.

Although street and city photography is not my preferred landscape, I have very much enjoyed my time in the city of romance and rate it as one of the most beautiful and charming cities I have visited.  There is a wavelength and ambience in Paris that I can immediately harmonize with. Its cobblestone streets are steeped in history and charm and this, combined with my love of the café culture, make it a city I could easily call home. I am looking forward to wandering its streets over the next few days before I head for Venice.

Au revoir for now…"

Shooting Icebergs from a Zodiac

This article was written by Moab Master, Joshua Holko

One of the most exciting and enjoyable aspects of a photographic trip to Antarctica is the opportunity to climb into a zodiac with like-minded photographers and spend countless hours cruising amongst the spectacular icebergs and glaciers that line the Antarctic Peninsula. For the photographer with a penchant for icy landscapes it just doesn’t get any better, and the opportunities are virtually limitless.

Cruising in a zodiac is one of the best ways to photograph icebergs since it puts the photographer at sea level, enabling wonderful perspective opportunities that are impossible to achieve aboard a large ship. Zodiac photography also provides you with the opportunity to get very close to even relatively large icebergs, thus enabling you to create dramatic photographs through the use of wide and ultra-wide angle lenses. If your zodiac driver is keen and fearless enough then in many cases you can even get close enough to touch some of the more stable icebergs (as I did on several occasions). If you are super keen then you may even be up for a polar plunge, as one member of my group recounted from a previous expedition.

During my last Antarctica trip I spent over twelve hours cruising in zodiacs with other photographers, which provided ample opportunity to not only photograph icebergs, glaciers and penguins, but also to place other zodiacs and people in the frame to provide a sense of scale and context to some of the photographs. I normally work very hard to exclude the hand of man in my landscape photography, but in several instances it provided the perfect counter point to complete and balance the frame.

Whilst the idea of wrestling with camera gear in a pitching zodiac on Antarctic seas with ten other photographers all jostling for position might sound like less than ideal shooting conditions, the reality is quite different. A zodiac provides a relatively stable shooting platform and can actually comfortably accommodate up to ten photographers (with equipment), a dedicated driver, and still provide ample room for everyone to shoot simultaneously. I never felt cramped or uncomfortable and was successfully able to share the space available with those around me. Usually those on the side closest to the subject kneel on the floor of the zodiac with their arms resting on the pontoon. This provides a very stable platform for handheld shooting. Photographers on the far side of the subject can then stand and shoot over the top of those kneeling in front of them. The zodiac driver would always do a few passes, thus enabling everyone to get the shot from several vantage points. Because a zodiac is a small boat and is constantly moving, it is important to keep shooting whenever the subject is in frame since the composition is constantly changing. There is very little time to properly compose a well-considered frame before the angle of view has changed. Instead, the challenge becomes one of selective editing later on.

Photography from zodiacs does require some additional and necessary equipment, including thermal clothes, waterproof jacket and pants, self inflating life jacket, and rain covers for camera equipment. One of the biggest challenges is protecting camera equipment from salt spray, sleet and snow. During several of my zodiac sessions we were buffeted by high winds whipping up spray as the zodiac moved through the sea. We also experienced heavy snow, driving rain and sleet. During several trips I had my camera equipment completely soaked and was very glad of the weather sealing of my 1-series Canon cameras, which operated flawlessly. Several Canon 5D MKII cameras were not so fortunate and succumbed (albeit temporarily) to the harsh, wet conditions. I recommend carrying at least one cloth suitable for drying the front element of your camera lens and a separate bag in which to keep it dry.

In terms of positioning I found it generally best to sit toward the back of the zodiac to avoid the worst of the salt spray that is inevitably thrown up at the front of the boat. However, there is no free lunch at the rear either, where the fumes of the outboard engine’s exhaust can become somewhat nauseating after a period of time and gave me a headache on more than one occasion.

The choice of lens when shooting from zodiacs is an important consideration in your planning since it is quite difficult to swap lenses without ending up with a camera full of salt spray, rain or snow. In fact, even swapping out small SD memory cards can be a challenge in a pitching zodiac whilst wearing cold weather gloves. On top of this, Antarctica is an incredibly dusty environment and it is a good idea to try and minimize lens changes, or at the very least find a sheltered place to do so. I chose to shoot with both my 1DS MK3 and 1DMKV cameras, as I wanted to utilize prime lenses for the majority of my shooting and dual camera bodies gave me an additional focal length option without having to change lenses. I primarily shot with the 24mm F1.4L MKII and 17mm F4L TSE and occasionally with the 70-200mm F2.8L IS. I am comfortable shooting with prime lenses at the wide end and found these two lenses excellent for the task. Most photographers chose to shoot with zoom lenses when on zodiac excursions since they provide for increased framing possibilities. A zoom lens such as a Canon’s 16-35mm or Nikons 14-24mm will provide for more flexible framing.


A few tips if you are planning your first photography foray on a zodiac in Antarctica.

-       Be sure to visit the bathroom before you climb on board. It’s amazing how the call of nature can hit you when you are in the middle of the Antarctic Ocean on a boat full of photographers keen on anything but heading back to the ship so you can relieve your problem.

-       Don’t forget to put on your life jacket before you queue up to board. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to put on a life jacket over bulky thermals and wet weather gear whilst in a narrow ship corridor and juggling cameras.

-       Carry a couple of dry lens clothes in an easily accessed waterproof bag for drying the front element of your lens. Use rain covers to protect your cameras.

-       Carry spare camera batteries and spare memory cards in an easily accessed waterproof pocket. There is nothing more frustrating than being on a zodiac with a flat battery or full memory card.

-       Wear sunscreen. Even in overcast conditions the reflected UV light off the icebergs will cook you in a very short space of time. The ozone layer is very thin over Antarctica.

-       Wear plenty of warm clothes. Sitting on a zodiac, it is very easy to become chilled to the bone if the weather is poor or the wind is up. It is easy to remove a layer if you get too hot.

-       Be considerate of those around you before you stand up or lean in front of someone else. Space is limited on a zodiac and everyone wants to take great photographs.

-       Zodiac drivers are often keen photographers themselves and will do their best to put the zodiac in the best possible position for shooting. If you need to get closer or further away you can ask, and I have found they are usually very accommodating.

-       Never carry loose pieces of paper or plastic. Antarctica is a pristine environment and it would be very easy to lose these items to the wind.

-       Above all else, have fun. Shooting from zodiacs is an incredible experience and it’s important to put the camera down occasionally, have the driver switch the engine off and just appreciate the silence, rugged and raw beauty of Antarctica.

Andy Biggs and Joshua will be announcing a new expedition to Antarctica in late 2013 in the coming months. If you would like to register your interest to be one of the first to be notified when the trip is announced you can email either Andy or Joshua at info@andybiggs.com or jholko@bigpond.com

 

The Golden Image

It's rare to find photo competitions that still accept hard-copy prints as part of their entry applications, so you can understand our excitement to learn that the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPA) requires images to be submitted only as prints to their APPA annual competition.

We were doubly-excited to learn that one of the Gold winning prints was produced on Somerset Museum Rag!

Australian nature and wilderness photographer, Joshua Holko, took Gold (and three Silvers for additional images he submitted) for the image to the left titled ‘Blue Berg', which was photographed in Iceland last year.

"The APPA awards are somewhat unique these days in that all judging is done of actual prints by a panel of highly experienced photographers (rather than by submission of digital images). The craft of the print is as important as the image itself and its fantastic to be a part of such an event. All of my prints were made on my absolute favourite paper Moab Somerset Museum Rag. Photography after all “Is all about the Print.”

Congratulations, Joshua, from all of us (up) here at Moab!